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Gerontology 2010;56:93–99

Depression among Centenarians and the Oldest Old: Contributions of Cognition and Personality

Margrett J.a · Martin P.a · Woodard J.L.b · Miller L.S.c · MacDonald M.a · Baenziger J.a · Siegler I.C.d · Davey A.e · Poon L.c
aIowa State University, Ames, Iowa, bWayne State University, Detroit, Mich., cUniversity of Georgia, Athens, Ga., and dDuke University, Durham, N.C., eTemple University, Philadelphia, Pa., USA
email Corresponding Author

 goto top of outline Key Words

  • Centenarian
  • Octogenarian
  • Mental health
  • Cognition
  • Personality

 goto top of outline Abstract

Background: An estimated 20% of adults over the age of 55 experience clinical mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. For older adults, mental health concerns are often undetected, concomitant with physical challenges, and ultimately go untreated. These realities have significant implications for older adults’ day-to-day functioning, particularly among the oldest old. Objective: The present study examined the ability of cognition and personality in explaining depression within a sample of octogenarians and centenarians. Methods: Participants were assessed during the most recent cross-sectional data collection of the Georgia Centenarian Study. The final eligible sample included 76 octogenarians (mean: 84.25 years, SD: 2.82; range: 81–90) and 158 centenarians and near centenarians (mean: 99.82 years, SD: 1.72; range: 98–109). Results: Hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to examine the relation between key variables and depressive symptoms in the two age groups. Blocks entered into the analyses included: demographics (i.e. age group, residential status, sex, and ethnicity) and functioning, memory and problem-solving ability, and personality (i.e. extraversion and neuroticism). Models differed for octogenarians and centenarians. Decreased problem-solving ability was related to greater depressive symptoms among octogenarians. For centenarians, institutional residence and increased neurotic tendencies were related to greater depressive symptoms. Conclusion: Study findings demonstrate the need to examine a variety of factors which influence mental health in later life and to consider the unique contexts and differential experiences of octogenarians and centenarians.

Copyright © 2010 S. Karger AG, Basel

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 goto top of outline Author Contacts

Jennifer A. Margrett, PhD
Department of Human Development and Family Studies
4380 Palmer Building, Room 2354
Ames, IA 50011-4380 (USA)
Tel. +1 515 294 3028, Fax +1 515 294 2502, E-Mail

 goto top of outline Article Information

Additional authors include S.M. Jazwinski, R.C. Green, M. Gearing, W.R. Markesbery, M.A. Johnson, J.S. Tenover, W.L. Rodgers, D.B. Hausman, C. Rott, and J. Arnold.

Received: April 8, 2008
Accepted after revision: November 24, 2008
Published online: January 26, 2010
Number of Print Pages : 7
Number of Figures : 0, Number of Tables : 3, Number of References : 26

 goto top of outline Publication Details

Gerontology (International Journal of Experimental, Clinical, Behavioural and Technological Gerontology)

Vol. 56, No. 1, Year 2010 (Cover Date: January 2010)

Journal Editor: Wick G. (Innsbruck)
ISSN: 0304-324X (Print), eISSN: 1423-0003 (Online)

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